Email Hacking 101

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Is it a matter of politics, legality, morality, loyalty, or ease of access when the E-mail account of a U.S. governer running for Vice President is hacked and open to the public?
Sarah Palin's E-mail Hacked

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Found at Social Engineering Cracked Palin's Email Account

With the election nearing, it obvious that both parties begin to feel stress and pressure, reaching for anything that may launch them ahead in the race. It never fails. From Watergate till now, there are always illegal attempts to recover information that may prove harmful to the opposing side. Technology has changed and granted access to important information to a larger mass of people (the public). Thus is the case for Sarah Palin's e-mail being hacked. However, this incident is a much larger issue than simply the 2008 election. This event, just one example of thousands, projects the bigger picture of the lack of privacy for any information put online. It is a wake up call to the world that although technology is great and makes our lives easier, one must have the greatest caution when deciding what material to send through the air.

The first question that entered my mind when I heard this story was, "How?" How did information (regardless of importance) end up in the hands of someone with bad intentions? Myself, being a bit of an invalid when it comes to computer and Internet technology, questioned how the incident happened and at what lengths the anonymous (illeged David Kernell, son of a Democratic Representative of Tennessee) went to in order to find this information.

How easy was it to hack into Palin's e-mail? But more importantly (though selfish) how easy could someone hack into my e-mail? Not that I have anything really important in there... or do I? I found that the hacker basically posted a play-by-play of how he/she did the job and what information was found. Apparently, the hacker found Palin's basic information with simple research, like name, etc. He then was able to change her password by using information such as her birthdate and her zip code (still not incredibly challenging. I could have done that). He found the password by answering the security question about where her and her spouse met. The answer to which was "Wasilla High." The hacker went in and changed the password to "popcorn," in order to let everyone else in the world enter the account. So, it's obvious this guy/girl isn't necessarily Bill Gates. He is an ordinary, 20 year-old, who has a basic knowledge of the internet and understands how it works. This was all on Yahoo! e-mail by the way. Scary?

I don't like to think that at any moment, just by doing some research and finding out the (unbelievable and amazing) information about me, someone could hack into my e-mail and delete the latest message from a friend telling me about the plans on Friday, or send the picture of me hugging Piglet at Disney World out to everyone in the universe. It's scary to think about, and as Dr. Jerz has pointed out before, it's even scarier to think about all of the other information that students, teens, and other people put up on the internet every day, information that shouldn't necessarily be viewed by others, information that may prove to be embarassing or in some cases harmful in the future. Do I really want people to know that my favorite song is "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie? No. Because it's not true!... or is it? And do I want people to view me as a child or an immature teen when I someday grow to be an adult? No. So this all comes back down to the idea to be careful what you put online.

However, in Palin's case, there wasn't any "useable" information retrieved. This was learned by the anonymous hacker's blog post (wish I could've found a link to that). So, is everything just A-ok then? As I said before I was curious on how easy of a time the hacker had breaking into Palin's account. So I decided to do it myself. After some research I realized that I didn't have the skills needed, or the time to learn them but I found out how to do it. There are multiple ways to hack into a users e-mail account, but I found that a good resource to use is Hacking an EMail Account. These directions tell the hacker to how to go about breaching a users email if he/she has access to the victim's computer and other way in case there is no access. Are you serious? The steps for hacking are laid out in plain text, ready for you to go ahead and conduct illegal actions. Thanks for the help! There is another site for specifically hacking into Gmail accounts. And various others available, however most are placed there to inform email users, not give the information to stock others. The information supplied by most sites when you search "how to hack email" on google is simply placed there as a trap, or to help users better understand how email works and how to keep things safe.

When it comes down to it, this incident is indeed a subject of political discussion, yet at the same time it falls down to us, the average Joe Shmo. We must protect information that we put online and is important to us in one way or another. It's one thing for a governer's email to be hacked in order to assist a political parties argument against the other, and another thing for someone's email to be hacked by a stalker and followed for months or years only to end in disasterous fashion. The lesson here is to be wise when dealing with issues online. Be cautious everywhere when personal information is a mouse-click away from someone else. Don't be afraid, just be smart.

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3 Comments

You know, I never really thought about how easy it would be to get into someone's e-mail account if they were in a position of power and fame. As long as you knew simple things like date of birth and the name of their first pet (which has to be in some magazine article somewhere), you can gain access to the account without too much hassle. I know how easy it is becuase I have had to go through the process of rediscovering my password many a time. It would be kind of good to us something like a SS# in case you forget your password, but it would also mean that your SS# would be out there...

What I wondered is why Palin, a high profile individual, didn't choose more difficult security questions? It's not like the hacker was a super-smart computer nerd; anyone could have done this. As the hacker said, he found all the information needed in google search and wikipedia. At least Palin had the foresight to not leave an electronic paper trail of potentially harmful materials. Or was she just lucky?

That's a good point. Maybe Yahoo! and Gmail should make it tougher for anyone to be able to hack into an email account. I mean, like Daniella said, for someone so famous it is a lot easier to find information about them. Jed, I think the SS# is a good idea too, but there are also larger repercussions that might come if someone was able to discover it. Although, Seton Hill seems to use the SS# for everything. I guess if someone wanted to know it bad enough they could get it anyway. Any other ideas that could make email more difficult to hack?

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This page contains a single entry by Andy published on September 21, 2008 8:04 PM.

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